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Capitalism and Socialism

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Are Americans ready to embrace socialism? A Rasmussen poll does show that a mere majority (53 percent) say capitalism is better than socialism. And one in five (20 percent) say that socialism is better than capitalism. America may not be ready to reject capitalism for socialism, but this poll does show less enthusiasm than in the past.

If you look at adults under the age of 30 in the poll, you find they are essentially evenly divided. More than a third (37 percent) prefer capitalism, another third (33 percent) embrace socialism, and the rest (30 percent) are undecided.

What are we to make of this? First, the terms capitalism and socialism weren’t defined in the poll. I suspect that if the pollsters made it clear that in socialism all or most of the means of production and distribution were owned by the state and that the economy was centrally planned by the government, the percentages would change. Defining capitalism would also be important since many would not necessarily associate it with a free market but instead might have visions of an evil, greedy capitalist. After all, that is how many businessmen are portrayed in the media.

Second, those under 30 are probably the least likely to associate socialism with Soviet-style repression. Instead, they may have in their minds the current government push toward European socialism and find that more attractive. Also, they are less likely to have “skin in the game.” When you ask investors this same question about capitalism and socialism, they favored capitalism by a 5-to-1 margin.

Still, this poll does illustrate the need to educate adults and young people about economics and the free market system. In my book, Making The Most of Your Money in Tough Times, I not only set forth principles about giving, saving, spending, debt and credit, but I also devote chapters to economics and economic systems. For example, what are the moral criticisms of capitalism? What are the economic criticisms of capitalism? What are reasonable answers to those criticisms?

I believe the Rasmussen poll illustrates why we need to devote time and attention to these important issues.

Viewpoints by Kerby Anderson

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